previous next

And it is on this account that the Lacedæmoians, who are a most valiant nation, go to war to the music of the flute, and the Cretans to the strains of the lyre, and the Lydians to the sound of pipes and flutes, as Herodotus relates. And, moreover, many of the barbarians make all their public proclamations to the accompaniment of flutes and harps, softening the souls of their enemies by these means. And Theopompus, in the forty-sixth book of his History, says—“The Getæ make all their proclamations while holding harps in their hands and playing on them.” And it is perhaps on this account that Homer, having due regard to the ancient institutions and customs of the Greeks, says—

I hear, what graces every feast, the lyre;

Odyss. xvii. 262.
as if this art of music were welcome also to men feasting.

Now it was, as it should seem, a regular custom to introduce music, in the first place in order that every one who might be too eager for drunkenness or gluttony might have music as a sort of physician and healer of his insolence and indecorum, and also because music softens moroseness of temper; for it dissipates sadness, and produces affability and a sort of gentlemanlike joy. From which consideration, Homer has also, in the first book of the Iliad, represented the gods as using music after their dissensions on the subject of Achilles; for they continued for some time listening to it—

Thus the blest gods the genial day prolong
In feasts ambrosial and celestial song:
Apollo tuned the lyre,—the Muses round,
With voice alternate, aid the silver sound.

Iliad, i. 603.
For it was desirable that they should leave off their quarrels and dissensions, as we have said. And most people seem to attribute the practice of this art to banquets for the sake of setting things right, and of the general mutual advantage. And, besides these other occasions, the ancients also established by customs and laws that at feasts all men should sing hymns to the gods, in order by these means to preserve [p. 1002] order and decency among us; for as all songs proceed according to harmony, the consideration of the gods being added to this harmony, elevates the feelings of each individual. And Philochorus says that the ancients, when making their libations, did not always use dithyrambic hymns, but “when they pour libations, they celebrate Bacchus with wine and drunkenness, but Apollo with tranquillity and good order.” Accordingly Archilochus says—
I, all excited in my mind with wine,
Am skilful in the dithyrambic, knowing
The noble melodies of the sovereign Bacchus.
And Epicharmus, in his Philoctetes, says—
A water-drinker knows no dithyrambics.
So, that it was not merely with a view to superficial and vulgar pleasure, as some assert, that music was originally introduced into entertainments, is plain from what has been said above. But the Lacedæmonians do not assert that they used to learn music as a science, but they do profess to be able to judge well of what is done in the art; and they say that they have already three times preserved it when it was in danger of being lost.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Kaibel)
load focus Greek (Charles Burton Gulick, 1927)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: